Thursday, November 12, 2009


I recently had a friend who visited Peru. While planning her return to the states, she wrote, “I WILL NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN!” From her words I knew that in some way she had been enlightened…yes, something very meaningful had happened within her being to change her.

“I WILL NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN!” The sentence still pulsates off the page, resounds in my ears and tugs at my heart, for I have also voiced these words…yes, in response to the most important revelations during my life. This sentence carries with it such an underlying statement of strength and stability in the proclamation that one has been gifted with discernment regarding something very important…something that results in our knowledge becoming wisdom and this wisdom forever changes our being. Such life-changing clarity comes only from God.

“Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways.” -James 1:5-7 (HCSB)

As a young child, the most important knowledge I possessed was truth from the Bible. I grew up in church with Bible stories, songs of praise and the basic knowledge of God all around me. It wasn’t until I, was under conviction from the Holy Spirit that I prayed and received wisdom and became aware that I too, needed to ask Jesus…in faith…without doubting…to save me…yes, me personally. As I walked down the isle of my small country church, tears filled my eyes in humility as I prayed asking forgiveness for my sins and invited Jesus to be my Lord and Savior. I thought my heart would burst with joy on Easter morning as I followed the Lord’s ordinance in Baptism. I said, “I WILL NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN!”

I do not claim that there have not been many times when I have knowingly, miserably failed my Lord. I am His child though and through His infinite mercy, I turned to Him. I have been reprimanded, taught and I have repented and have received my Father's forgiveness. In this I am sure. As the story goes regarding the refiner of silver, so has my Father watched over me and cared for me, teaching me while holding me in the flames to melt impurities from me…so much so that He can now see His reflection in me once more. Prior to this time though, Satan had me exactly where he wanted me, causing me enormous difficulty in understanding how I could possibly have fallen so far…how I could have turned my back on God, turned away from His call and made me doubt how I could ever sing again or be used in His service. Did I really possess the knowledge I thought I had? I ask you, can a Christian with so much knowledge actually lack wisdom? Ask Peter. The answer is a resounding YES! I know my own personal trials and failures but for whatever your reason, when we no longer ask, consult or invite the Holy Spirit to guide us in our decision-making process and He is not beckoned for wisdom or to show us God's clarity in scripture, we ultimately close the door on intercessory intervention in our daily lives.

God always gives us the freedom to choose and that freedom is intended so we may place Him first in our life. He wants us to choose Him, obey Him, receive His blessings and He wants to show us all His glory. The knowledge we possess as Christians is worthless unless we choose to pray for wisdom. Wisdom is God’s gift to us of His spiritual insight. God is not only my Father. He is also my teacher and He has taught me so much. First and foremost, God has taught me to seek the Holy Spirit regarding all my life choices so as to align myself with scripture and pray for wisdom so that I may seek His purpose in everything. With the gift of God’s wisdom, I have and continue to celebrate my trials and continue to grow more steadfast in my faith. “I WILL NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN!”

Captured in His reflection,

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Deeper Sense of Home

I am home! How good it is to be home! Home at last! Finally home!

Have you ever dwelt on the word, H-O-M-E, and what it means to you? Home can be a house, an apartment or some other type dwelling. Home can be a town or a community, yes, simply a location. Home can be permanent or temporary. Some people even have more than one home. I’m sure you’re also acquainted with the same phrase I’ve heard all my life, “Home is where your heart is.” Well, while living in Saudi Arabia, I thought a lot about that particular phrase and all those qualities which make up the special place I call home. There were a number of things that entered my mind as I compiled my mental list. First were the longing thoughts of my country and all the freedoms I dearly missed back in the USA. Those freedoms were fought for and attained by family and friends, yes, bought and paid for with their blood and my love and gratitude for them are very near and dear to my heart. Next were my thoughts of the state in which I was born and raised. Texas, for me, is like unto none other. My heritage runs deep in the piney woods of east Texas where my Grandfather, Amos DuBose, was the first Judge in Newton County. After that, memories surfaced of living in many towns before venturing afar to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia where I lived in a villa temporarily for seven months. Unlike those of you who still reside in or close to the town in which you were born and/or grew up in, I have lived in sixteen locations throughout my adult life. As I thought about each of those locations, I automatically attempted to focus on the positive aspects in my life at each particular place. I attempted to recall those things that caused me to picture myself at “home” there. I have to admit, in some locations the task was impossible. If you have lived in multiple locations, you most probably favor some more than others and feel some were truly “home” as opposed to others feeling uncomfortable or temporary. As I narrowed my list to those which felt more like “home” to me, it was very easy to pick and choose based on the important things that happened to me while living in each location. But something else was very apparent to me as I tried to rationalize what “home” actually meant to me now as compared to then.

Of course, my first and foremost thoughts were of the location where I grew up in a house with my family. For me, this was LaBelle, a small community in southeast Texas. There I was surrounded with love and protection. Hmmm… but it occurred to me that some of the best and worst memories of my entire life also happened there. Never the less, LaBelle is where I also returned to live a second time and where my younger son was born. I made life-long friends in LaBelle. Again, some of the best and worst memories of my entire life happened there.

Second on my list was San Antonio, Texas, where I also made life-long friends. I also lost friends during war while living there. This is where my first son was born. Here too, some of the best and worst memories of my life reside.

Third was Brazoria, Texas, which is where my two sons grew up. In this location, I was close in proximity to my family and also made life-long friends as well. And yes, Brazoria is another location where some of my best and worst memories also reside.

As you can see, there were good and bad memories in each location, so I derived that circumstances are not the determining factor in whether I felt at “home” or not. No other places have come close to feeling like “home” until now…here in Junction, Texas. The fact that I am here is simple yet complex, so yes, it’s a result of God’s master weave in my destiny. I have already made life-long friends here and continue to meet and get to know more wonderful people every day. Junction is not as near to my extended family as I’d like but we have e-mail, cell phones and I can physically reach them in four to six hours. That is a small drawback in comparison to the specialness I have found. I love the solitude I find with my Father on our ranch. I dearly love the Texas Hill Country, the spectacular views of His creations, the opportunities for friendship and fellowship, the abundant wildlife, history and nature’s stories. I love the rivers and exercise finally rocks when kayaking in the South Llano! We’re also building a house on our ranch. That, too, is exciting in and of itself, but the realization that it belongs to God is ever present in my mind. He is, after all, the only reason for it’s possibility. Yet all these things I’ve mentioned are still not what makes Junction my true “home-sweet-home” now. The “specialness” I referred to earlier is not due to the location or qualities I’ve found in Junction. It’s due to the location of my heart and my closeness to God. There has been a long time of waiting…a time of patience…a time of teaching…a time of learning...and finally a time to stand strong and move forward.

You see, all sixteen places I’ve called “home” were and are temporary to me…yes, even now. The same change is within me just as it was for Moses. It’s about God’s timing and the realization of His overwhelming presence and call on and in my life. Unlike Moses, I wasn’t sent into the desert to tend sheep for forty years after experiencing my mountain top in LaBelle, but I did travel an empty road of discouragement…trying to create my own happy “home” in so many places. Then at long last, I found myself facing God and asking Him “me?”… “now?” So the true meaning of “home” for me is, indeed, “where my heart is!” And guess where that is? My heart has experienced a time of great personal growth as a result of God’s call and that of waiting upon Him. I find myself loving the Lord, my God, with all my heart, with all my soul and with all my strength!

“And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” -Deuteronomy 6:5 (NLT)

How does God know when we love Him? He says that if we love Him, we will obey Him. When we obey God, we set our heart on Him and we truly commit our way to Him. He is in me and I am in Him. I now have true fellowship with the Holy Spirit and oneness with the Lord Jesus Christ and I am at home with my Father…now and throughout eternity!

“Be careful to obey all the commands I give you; show love to the Lord your God by walking in His ways and clinging to Him.” -Deuteronomy 11:22 (NLT)

Also, remember how I said I love the rivers here? Well, Junction is known as the “Land of Living Waters.” Maybe it’s just in line with my destiny, but I find so much enjoyment in connecting one of my favorite verses…

“He who believes in Me … out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” -John 7:38 (NLT)

Yes, I am home! How good it is to be home! Home at last! Finally…and yes, with a much deeper sense of home!

Captured in His reflection,

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Weeds Won't Wait - Weeds Won't Last

Hello everyone…God has brought us safely home from Saudi Arabia! Needless to say, home was a very welcomed sight to my husband’s and my tired and weary eyes after being away so long and traveling so far. When we arrived, we found everything safe and secure, just as we’d left it. For these material blessings kept intact, I am truly grateful and praise is generously given my Father for friends who watched over this dwelling we call home. Waking early and enjoying our porch, we spotted a few deer and then smelled a skunk but it was the many weeds that were dominating our view and demanding our immediate attention. We couldn’t totally enjoy all the good for focusing on the tall weeds. Isn’t it amazing how things seem to remain the same yet not so? The thorns, weeds, spiders, scorpions, raccoons, skunks and snakes seemed to enjoy visiting our new wrap-around porch while we were away. Our personal belongings inside remained undisturbed, yes, the material possessions were silently waiting our return; yet, there was also the subtle evidence of this abundance of activity outside…broken pottery, baby scorpions, spiders, webs and weeds, weeds, weeds galore! Even with very little rain, it was obvious that weeds won’t wait!

The more I looked at all the tall weeds, the more I was reminded that life here on earth is a tremendous blessing handed down from God to tend and care for…yes, to nurture and prune. We are stewards and with that comes responsibility. We are here for His purpose which is good and holy, yet we will always have sin attempting to enter and grow in our life in any way it possibly can. Just like our weeds, sin can enter in abundance during unguarded moments yet it doesn’t always wait for an unguarded moment. Satan’s attacks are also very subtle, when everything appears intact and going smoothly, when plans are made and our futures are bright. We must remember that even though God holds our future, we still have to hold His hand to guide us each step of the way. How? We are to live a life led by the Holy Spirit. In Galatians 5, Paul writes to the churches in southern Galatia about our freedom in Christ and a life by the Spirit.

“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other; so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:16-25 (NIV)

The glorious truth of our Father is that He can see the sunshine even when we are buried in weeds and struggling to see and walk through these tall barriers in our life. He always sees the other side. He sees the larger picture. He gives us the freedom to choose a life led by the Spirit. Life will hold many moments…those of happiness, of joy and a future of hope when all of life seems intact…but there will also be continuous trials and tribulations that will test our faith in the One who gives us this life in abundance. The weeds are here surrounding our home as a result of neglect in a certain area, yet they will continually attempt their growth during our happiest of times even after we’ve weeded. The good news is that they are temporary…like our circumstances down here on this earth. God can take all the pain and suffering, the trials and even our sin away and make our path clear again. He can turn everything into good once more. He’s done it for me on more than one occasion.

I lean totally on the Holy Spirit to guide me through the weeds in my life and lead me to my safe home which God keeps intact for me. Thank You, Father, for weeds won’t last while I’m captured in Your reflection.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Seclusion with God in the Sandbox

"Come to Me . . ." Matthew 11:28 (NIV)

Tonight I will say good-bye to Saudi Arabia, often called “the world’s largest sandbox.” It’s hard to believe my husband and I have lived in the dry, hot, sandy desert of Al-Jubail for this long. He’s been here for ten months and I’ve been here seven. It’s rained twice and there have been two shamals since I arrived. Al-Jubail is located on the Persian Gulf and shamals result from strong northwest winds that are funneled into the Gulf by the mountains of Turkey and Iraq to the northeast and the high plains of Saudi Arabia to the southwest. The air is so full of sand that you cannot breathe without covering your nose and mouth. The inside of the villa would have a yellow glow due to the sun’s attempt to shine through the dense sand outside. The fine powdery sand would coat everything and try it’s best to seep inside door and window facings. I’ve never experienced yellow days and blinding sand before.

As I previously mentioned, there‘s a high concrete wall topped with barbed wire which surrounds the compound where we’ve lived. The barrier is there for our protection. I have been outside the wall approximately fifteen times in the past seven months and I haven’t driven at all, since women here are not allowed to drive. I’ve been very inactive and confined compared to my existence back home in the states. Apart from the five prayer calls each day, it’s been a perfectly quiet and isolated location to clear the mind and soothe the spirit. I thank God for the opportunity I’ve had to quietly seek Him and reverently pray. His companionship without any interruptions from outside sources has caused me to reflect on the constant availability of the Holy Spirit within. Most of us live at an extremely hurried pace and I have been no exception. Long ago I was very busy living in the world, a period where confusion, worldly success and status reigned. Outwardly, I was trying to fit in and stand out at the same time while proving myself to others. Inwardly, I lived a life of disappointment, rebellion and pretense. It’s both amazing and humbling how our Shepherd will draw the real us to Him while rescuing us from ourselves. Most often it’s during times of danger or adversity. He does some of His best one-on-one faith teaching during our darkest moments. Other times though, the glorious times when we seek Him out and yearn to walk and talk with Him resigning our entire being to Him...there is where we find such a sweet resting place. Once we’ve tasted that manna, we daily hunger for more and draw closer in our relationship with Him.

This quiet time in Saudi Arabia has been a period in my life which I had not anticipated, yet one in which I am truly grateful. Thank You, Father, for the quiet time and gifting me with Your constant presence in this foreign land…but thank You most for teaching me to seek this same quiet and peaceful resolve with You when I return home. Thank You for realigning my daily routine where You come first and every single step thereafter, I take with You. Thank You for deepening my faith and strengthening me in the constant awareness of Your Holy Spirit within me. Thank You for blessing the U.S.A., Father…and thank You for instilling in me while here an even stronger appreciation and desire to be a better steward of my homeland. I pray for You to not only continue deepening my spiritual walk but to discipline me and to cultivate this inner simplicity You’ve shown me. During this stage of quiet confinement in my life, You have taught me that it seems life is more free and simpler when we learn to value who we really are, instead of measuring our worth by other things such as how many organizations we belong to, how much we own or how high we’ve climbed the ladder of success. There’s something permanent about the real me that You see when You look into my heart of hearts and we commune together. In that place there is the eagerness of a simple child with love abounding and the realization that material status and possessions are momentary. They are like the sand of the shamal…here today and gone tomorrow. Things come to an end but as I grow older nothing can separate the real me from Your eternal love. You have taught me personally that You value who I really am so much that You want nothing more than to spend time with me. Thank you, Father, for this precious time we’ve spent together in the sandbox.

Captured in His reflection,

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Living in the Spirit

I can remember, as a young person, sitting in Sunday School during a lesson which centered around the Holy Spirit. I couldn’t help wondering what on earth the teacher was trying to say and why she seemed so confused. If you’re like I was, as a new Christian, you accepted on faith what you read in God’s word -- that the Holy Spirit came to reside inside a child of God. You knew there was a change in you since you were saved and you were aware of the Lord’s presence in your life, yet there seemed to be a vague understanding of the Holy Spirit. I can remember wanting to understand more clearly but the King James Version of the Bible is a studious read for a small child, and most adults including my Sunday School teacher veered away from what appeared to be a difficult subject. I can also remember not discussing the Holy Spirit much in Church services because members seemed to associate it with the “charismatic movement.” It seemed as though it was understood that since we could pray directly to God and read our Bible for life’s instruction, there was no reason to mention or place any value on the Holy Spirit’s indwelling within us. I ask you. How sad is that? Was it explained more clearly when you became a child of God? Were you taught to live in the Spirit or simply acknowledge and accept His presence within you?

Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” John 14:23-26

We can go through life as a child of God, understanding who the Holy Spirit is and why He resides within us or we can simply and vaguely accept it because He is part of the Holy Trinity…the Three in One…Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Even understanding who He is doesn’t mean we live in the Spirit. The best and simplest way to explain it is…within a child of God there is a door and the Holy Spirit is behind the closed door. We’re aware He’s there but we either open the door and include Him or we don’t. We either ask Him for direction and guidance in everything or we don’t. We both conduct our self and treat our body pleasingly, inviting His presence or we don’t. The more we go about our daily life not living in the presence of the Holy Spirit’s existence within us, the more we keep the door closed and the more we veer from God and His teachings. Back to square one…how does Jesus know we love Him? We obey His teachings…we eagerly keep the door open and anticipate the presence of the Holy Spirit so He will teach us “all things” and will remind us of “everything” Jesus has said in the Father’s name.

I’ve listened to fellow Christians in distress, saying they felt as though their prayers were not getting any higher than the ceiling. Rest assured in the fact that God hears your prayers. He even knows the moaning of your heart when there are no accompanying words. You should never base your relationship with the Father on your circumstances or feelings. Instead ask why you feel the way you do and examine your heart. If you’re not living intentionally in the Holy Spirit, then you are attempting life on your own...and you are doomed. I once heard a pastor use the acronym, L – I – F – E …Living Intentionally For Eternity. In other words, we have to “will” to do it right. We have to desire a Holy life and only the one who perseveres and wants to live a Holy life will live it. It requires a very humble and knowledgeable desire to delve into God’s word and focus on God through the Holy Spirit. It’s more than being able to quote God's word and more than having a book of rules and regulations to do right. It's impossible without yielding your body to the Holy Spirit…yes, both mind and body. As Christians we are blessed by our Father and have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us and we may receive all the blessings our Father has in store for us.

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” John 15:4

I remain captured in His reflection,

Sunday, August 23, 2009


More Reflections from a Country Girl on Foreign Soil...

“What is this…a Necklace, Hatband, Prayer Beads? What?”

I recently had a birthday and my husband came home to eat lunch with me as he does every day, but on this particular day he brought me a “present” for my birthday. Smiling from ear to ear, He handed me a plastic grocery bag of goodies he’d picked out especially for me. He gave me four candle holders which match some dishes I purchased at the Dollar Store back home. (Our normal dishes are in storage because we’re building a new house.) Also in the bag were some unusually strung beads with no clasp and they would not fit over my head. They also looked too small for a hatband. All right-y then! Yes-sir-ee! Moving right along! Last but not least, there was a container of foot powder (because I can’t find 100% cotton socks over here and my exercise sneakers get smelly from sweating in polyester socks)! Bet you’re saying to yourself, “WOW, what a guy!!!” I know that’s right…and actually, I would be thinking the same thing! The thing that you need to realize though and that I have to confess, is that he has already taken me shopping while living here in Saudi Arabia for gold and silver jewelry and belts, as well as a beautiful custom-sized, hand-made rug for our new house. So it’s really, I mean REALLY not as bad as it sounded!!!

I thanked him, of course, and then asked what the beads were for. He said, “ They are worry beads.” Well, my immediate reply was, “Thank you honey, but I don’t worry…I may have concerns at times, but I take them to God and I don’t worry. I know everything is in God’s hands and He’s in ultimate control!” He laughed and said, "they are a souvenir for you." I said, “Oh, ok.” So off and on I’ve been giving these "worry beads" a glance and finally, I had rearranged things on the end table and I caught a glimpse of them lying on my Bible. That did it, I had to know more about these beads and I really didn’t want something that signified “worry” sitting on my Bible! So if you’re interested too, click on the link below. It is the best explanation I’ve found:

From all the sources I’ve read though, the number of beads signifies different things. I still can’t figure out why mine has three divided sets of 22 beads…totaling 66 beads with 2 flat divider beads…oh, and 10 knots. I figure that mine is a special souvenir and it signifies the following to me: My paternal Grandmother’s birthday is June 22nd and my Dad eventually saw her again and Jesus on June 22nd. My Mother was born in 1922 and I was 22 years old when I was pregnant with my first child. As for the 10 knots…well, I was 10 when the Holy Spirit began dealing with me and brought me under conviction to realize I needed Jesus to be my personal Savior. And then I recalled the many locations in the Bible which speak of “worry,” yet those in Matthew flooded over me.

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?" ~Matthew 6:25 (NIV)

"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin." ~Matthew 6:28 (NIV)

"So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' " ~Matthew 6:31 (NIV)

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." ~Matthew 6:34 (NIV)

…and also that one verse so close to my heart,

“Now don’t worry about a thing, my daughter. I will do what is necessary, for everyone in town knows you are an honorable woman." ~Ruth 3:11 (NIV)

So it’s while I was researching these special “worry beads,” that I was reminded once again how to keep my cup half full instead of viewing it half empty. You know what else? I’ve decided the perfect place for those “worry beads” to reside is on God’s Word.

Thank You Father, for capturing me in your reflection in order to view something so foreign to my heart and soul.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


When you look at yourself, whose reflection do you see?

I remember while growing up how self-conscious I was, just wanting to fit in with the rest of the girls in my class and not wanting to be noticed as someone who was different. “Different” wasn’t a kind adjective back then. We girls would run giggling and talking to the restroom at every chance to examine our reflection in the mirror. We wanted to look just right so we could be assured someone would turn their head and look at us, talk to us and think we were pretty. Some girls needed very little help to achieve the “pretty” status. It’s as if they were born beautiful. Synonymous with their obvious beauty came popularity and their world seemed so perfect to those of us observing. I would sit in wonder and think how awesome it must be to have their clothes, their looks, their popularity and even their crowns. I sometimes thought happiness had to accompany all those other things. Also I questioned why it seemed so easy for some and not for others to achieve such status.

I am describing peer pressure in its most subtle form, never-the-less it is very real and makes very deep impressions at a very young age. In my case, on Monday through Friday I was quiet, intimidated and struggled to fit in. Sunday morning proved differently. I moved to the head of the class because I was in Church. I was a child of the King and I’d come to worship in my Father’s house. I was comfortable and could openly be myself…flaws and all…and I totally fit in. Oddly enough, some of my friends at school felt very uncomfortable in Church and some didn’t attend at all. This realization finally caused me to conduct a self-examination. I had to choose which was better? Did I want to fit in at school or at Church. The Holy Spirit made the answer clear to me and I wish I could confess that my struggle was entirely over but at times I still honestly wanted to fit in at both places. This is when I was taught personally that you cannot serve two masters. So my high school years were not happy years because I was in surroundings which placed very little or no value in the areas of my comfort zone. However, God supplied my comfort and He prevailed.

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other…” -Matthew 6:24 (NIV)

Even now, God has still dealt with me on certain issues like a “shop till you drop” attitude and using the “makeup of the stars” but it’s because He deals with root attitudes buried deep inside of us. He’s made me realize that the obstacles placed before me during my high school years are no different than the difficulties I face as an adult. They are there in order for me to examine myself and choose which pathway to travel. Here, in this grown-up world, we still have to perform the same self-examinations. The adversities we face still call for choices and still reveal whether we’re lazily going through the motions to fit in only on Sunday morning or whether we are pleasing God every day. I challenge you to conduct regular self-examinations. Your answers will be graded by the Holy Spirit and they will reveal the freedom in which you reside…the freedom to walk with God daily or the freedom to fit in the world.
(Hint: The Holy Spirit will not allow a child of God to rest comfortably in the world’s mediocrity.)

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
-II Corinthians 3:17, 18 (NIV)

Captured in His reflection,

Monday, August 17, 2009

Her Smile Is Hidden Behind Her Veil…Is Her Salvation Hidden Behind My Smile?

From LaBelle to Jubail…a Born-Again Country Girl on Foreign Soil

My husband and I are temporarily living as residents in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). As our time grows long and weary in this dry, hot desert land, I have a better understanding of the word “foreign.” While growing up in the very small southeast Texas community of LaBelle, I never realized how different a place like Jubail, KSA could be. You see, this is my first time to travel overseas, much less live outside the United States of America. The name of the community in which I was raised is actually interpreted in French as “the girl.” I always thought this was very prophetic because my maiden name is translated “of the woods.” Thus I have always derived from this combination why I am so at home and comfortable being “the girl of the woods.” Not only did I grow up in a very rural and open country atmosphere, I could climb trees, roam through the woods, run with the wind and feel as free as a bird. I could also drive, get a job, shop, swim, boat, fish and become proficient in shooting competition against my three older brothers at the old magnolia tree on the back of our property. I could also partake of and enjoy so many more freedoms…which I realize now, I took for granted. I could attend the Church of my choice and worship my God without thinking twice about it. I could share Jesus with anyone. I could carry and read my Bible in public. I could bow my head in prayer, or lift my voice in praise and sing about the glorious name of Jesus anywhere I pleased. Believe me when I say to you now, I am ashamed to have ever unconsciously taken those freedoms for granted. I have had many hours here to think about all the opportunities given me which I let slip through my fingers. I always thought myself to be very appreciative and when I heard stories like those of Corrie Ten Boom, I knew I had so much to be thankful for yet now I fully realize I still took some things for granted. My Dad and three older brothers served in the Navy, my older son served in the Air Force and I, myself, lived on Randolph AFB while working at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas during the Viet Nam war. I always had the first-hand knowledge and appreciation of those who served, fought and died to preserve my country’s freedom yet it still did not personally touch the depths of my soul until now.

Don’t misunderstand me; I have suffered no hardships whatsoever while living in Saudi Arabia, yet the experience of this culture has served to be a wakeup call from my Father. I was raised in what some refer to as a strict Southern Baptist home and for reasons still unbeknownst to me, while growing up I was not allowed to wear makeup, use hairspray, shave my legs or wear my skirts higher than the knee. I also was forbidden to sew on Sundays or wear long pants to a hospital. Weird huh? I know, but let’s suffice it to say I guess my parents had their own reasons for believing this way. This is before women wearing pants became such a common sight inside our churches, which of course, I was also never allowed to do. My sister and I were also told we could not ride our brothers’ horses because it was not “lady-like.” I’m just giving you a little background here to show you that my growing-up years were very awkward for me and very different from those of my peers. I’ve thought about my growing-up years a lot in comparison to the women of KSA. The fact that the women of Jubail are suppressed is an understatement. Though I grew up with some restrictions that were definitely stricter than those for most girls my age, it has still been very hard for me to fathom the “rules” which apply to adult females here. At the present time, I live in a compound surrounded by a very high, solid concrete wall topped with barbed wire. This wall has one entrance/exit which is guarded with machine guns, by the Arab military. Vehicles are stopped and the driver must be recognizable or the occupants are interrogated and searched as well as their vehicle searched before entering. Long-handled mirrors are waved underneath the vehicle as well. From the outside, the compound resembles that of a prison with the exception of the two-story dwellings in sight above the wall. The compound is protected by three guard posts manned with ak 47s. We live in a western compound, which means we (women) can dress as we please while within the walls; however, outside the compound, we must wear an abaya.

Women aren’t allowed to drive here. If I want it badly enough, I must request a driver to travel across the long bridge to Bahrain in order to purchase pork or bacon. (I dearly miss my maple bacon.) Jobs for women here are found in either schools or hospitals. I had to go to the hospital in order to complete some tests for my iquama which is a residence visa with multiple entry. While I was there, my husband sat in one waiting room…in fact, it was a huge lobby with a coffee service and vending machines, displays, etc. and I had to sit in another waiting room for women only…a small barren room with chairs. While sitting with the other women in this room, an Arab man walked by the doorway and flung his trash in the door on us. I sat in shock as I scanned the room reading the reactions of all the eyes barely seen behind black veils. There were mixed emotions but mainly looks of disgust. I thought to myself, what a waste of otherwise beautiful smiles, personalities, productive individuals and souls who are untouched by the freedom of the Bible and God’s saving grace. Women here are focused on for one thing, that is to further the Islamic population. An Arab male may have up to five wives “provided they are treated equally.”

I dearly miss female camaraderie. I miss smiling at new female acquaintances and having them smile back in return. I miss laughter, giggles and sharing. Needless to say, I do not speak out here. I merely smile and there are only eyes staring at me in return. Father, please forgive me if I’ve failed you. You see, people are beheaded for sharing Christ or the gospel with Muslims here. What a switch for this outgoing Christ follower to stifle herself…and the result is a battle within me which brings tears because I cannot comprehend my choices. However, I do live across the street from a young woman from Venezuela who (before I arrived) taught two Women of Faith Bible Studies within the compound walls. Praise the Lord! For that I am thankful! It is outside the walls of this dry, barren and thirsty land which plague my thoughts as I listen to five prayer calls each day. The muffled chanting over the loud speakers all over Saudi seems to shout confusion for so many lost souls. I drown it out pretending it is an auctioneer at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo! LOL! The only thing I’ve derived from these “prayer calls” is the scheduled practice of prayer itself. By that I mean businesses close their doors and things shut down five times a day for their disciplined praying time. I cannot fathom most Christians shutting down five times in a day in order to honor our Father on our knees with prayer and thanksgiving. This realization speaks to me loudly and reiterates the fact that I have taken my freedoms at home for granted. It seems we are given way more yet we give back way less.

And lastly, the absence of personal protection here is another thing vastly different than I am used to. Back home I teach Hunter Education for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. I am a Texas Youth Hunting Program Huntmaster and I carry a CHL as well. As I previously mentioned, I grew up shooting with my family and was taught firearm safety and respect. Also, where I live in Texas it’s necessary to have a firearm close at hand for rattlesnakes and varmints. Has this been a culture shock for this little Browning-toting female? I dare say that it has! After all, Texas women come from a strong breed! I’ve come to understand though, that it is that very strength from my beloved Texan heritage along with my strength derived from God, first and foremost and also that of my country, the U.S.A., which enables me to carry on and embrace the journey here. Our God is LARGE! I will always cherish the opportunity given me to live in KSA temporarily, in order to renew my very deep appreciation for the freedoms and blessings which many have lived, fought and died to preserve back home. I dearly love and miss my country, The United States of America and my home state of Texas! You are the greatest this side of Heaven!

May God bless all our missionaries and military.
“Be strong and courageous…for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Now You Are Ready

The other day I read a post from one of my Facebook friends who wrote, “potential recognized, potential realized,” and she requested thoughts regarding her statement. My reply was as follows:

Someone else quoted H.W. Longfellow today: "We judge ourselves by what we are capable of doing, but others judge us by what we have done." And yet another said she'd heard, "We judge ourselves by our intentions; others judge us by our actions." The problem with both is the human factor involved in that "we" (humans) are doing the judging and surmising our own degrees of "potential." It's best when we doubt what we recognize as our potential and know how very inadequate we are...thereby placing our entire faith in God's insurmountable and omnipotent potential. Then and only then is His potential in us “realized.”

"For nothing is impossible with God." Luke 1:37 (NLT)

Well, the subject intrigued me. The main reason was that I had been dealing with this very thing ever since I shelved my infamous autobiography a few months ago. This was the book that was to be my personal GONE WITH THE WIND…but more than that, it was to be the accumulation of my life’s journey, complete with all the wrong turns which inevitably brought me here…to the foot of the cross…where He's teaching me once again. This book was to be something shared with other Christians who were floundering while riding a merry-go-round of disappointments and who were oblivious to God’s purpose in their lives; more importantly, who were oblivious to His presence through His Holy Spirit within them. And I wanted to document as I wrote this book that I couldn't help wondering as I rode this merry-go-round in my life, "Did our paths ever cross? Did you see me? Did you hear me?" I wanted this book to reach out...

Why did I shelve my book? I realized once again that God was sitting His daughter down to teach her…that would be me. And here I was in Saudi Arabia, sporting a bracelet engraved with the words, “Embrace the journey.” This was to be my adventure in a foreign land while I wrote my book...uh...for God. The organizing perfectionist within, once again had it all planned. Yet the plans were not my Father's, they were mine.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you... to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Instead God blessed me with writer’s block. Ever notice how He is so good at giving you what you least expect when you least expect it? Well that is so very true for us organized-perfectionist types who just know we are on the right track! After I faced my dismal wall, He also blessed me with a multitude of alone time to get me back on His track. He gave me a thirst in the desert that only He could satisfy. He gave me time alone so that I could be still and know Him better as I read and studied His Word. He gave me quiet to pray and seek Him out and to listen to His voice within. I couldn’t even drive in Saudi Arabia! So we began…just Him and me. We had a private refresher course in love and humility. That's when I came to the realization that my book would have the unintentional potential to hurt others. I realized this book was not orchestrated by God after all. That revelation hit me square in the face and knocked me down to my knees. Need I say more? When I am on my knees God has a captive audience and a willing pupil. Again, that would be me. Dumbfounded by this truth, I sat and thought, well what then? If everything I’ve been through cannot benefit others, then what is it, God, that you want me to do for you at this stage of my life? His answer… “Be patient…pray…wait…and understand (again) that your purpose is ENTIRELY about me and for me. It cannot and will not ever be about you or within your timeframe.” I prayed, "Father, how very weak and inadequate I am in following your will." That's when He said to me, "Now, you are ready." Tearfully, my eyes were clearly opened to the fact that I had been utilizing the talents gifted me while judging my own potential...instead of focusing on His. “Again? I've done it again! I hear you, Lord."

This caused me to reflect…and guess what? God had purposely made the time available here in Saudi Arabia for me to do that also. I was eleven years old when I accepted Christ as my personal Savior and I was fifteen years old when I again walked down the isle of the same little country church to surrender my life to God’s call into special service for Him...the music ministry. I had been singing in church since I was eleven and there was nothing I could do better to serve God than to give Him the glory in the gift He’d given me. He had blessed me with so much more than a singing voice. He allowed me, at a very young age, to experience hurt and brokenness which captured me in His reflection even then and He ministered through my singing. I longed to reside there...close to Him and within the protection of His love. This insight gave me so much understanding in the depth of meaning and the feeling behind the words in the songs I sang. I not only sang of that deep meaning from my heart, I felt if I couldn’t live what the words expressed, I should not stand before others and proclaim them. The understanding of each song's origin, it's nature, compassion and truth that He blessed me with in conveying those written words are what He caused to touch the hearts and lives of others. There was never a doubt in my mind that God was using me for His glory and I was so excited and willing to serve Him. I can remember so much happiness at that stage in my life. It was not an easy task for my small church to award me a music scholarship to East Texas Baptist College and I was on the mountain top! Little did I know that God would ultimately be my life teacher and not simply my avenue toward this tremendous opportunity. He knew, at that very time, the lessons I was about to face. Lesson one, and I miserably failed. My world cratered when my parents told my pastor and music director that I would not leave home except on the arm of a husband. While in shock, I forgave them yet I still married quickly just in order to leave home. So much happened, so many mistakes were made before I understood that even this had the capacity to be part of God’s long-range plan. Though He blessed me with two wonderful sons in my first marriage, it still took me years of anguish and pain before I finally understood how the Master Refiner melted away my impurities while holding me in the flames. You see, that devastation cast over me years ago was the beginning of my merry-go-round ride through life. Of course, I realize now…through all my wrong turns…that God had so much more to teach me in order to use me in recognizing His potential and not my own. Ever think that you know what you know that you know because you know? That’s where I was…much like “knowing” a while back that I was supposed to write my autobiography “for God.” It’s taken me many years, but the most recent lesson I’ve finally learned is that God will forever be my teacher and He will continually reprimand His children. He used the brokenness in me to teach me that perfection and completeness can only be found in Him and His healing and comfort were given me in order for me to show others those same qualities. I know in order for Him to continually shine through me, I have to let go of my own plans and rely entirely on Him. An organized perfectionist is still in my nature but now it causes me to laugh at myself more often than not. I also continue to catch myself falling off track and He still uses my mistakes and my inadequacies to remind me WHO is in control. I'm completely His now, so I remember that it's not my limited and obvious potential others are to see, it's the limitless horizons of my omnipotent Father. I also know that the only way to achieve His purpose in me is for me to stay focused on Him and not on myself or this world...but to honor Him with my presence continually and to give Him my availability without the hesitation of focusing on my own ability. How do I do that? I remain...

“Are we beginning again to tell you how good we are? Some people need to bring letters of recommendation with them or ask you to write letters of recommendation for them. But the only letter of recommendation we need is you yourselves! Your lives are a letter written in our hearts, and everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you. Clearly, you are a letter from Christ prepared by us. It is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on stone, but on human hearts. We are confident of all this because of our great trust in God through Christ. It is not that we think we can do anything of lasting value by ourselves. Our only power and success come from God.” 2 Corinthians 3:1-5 (NLT)